By RICHARD POWELSON
A national child advocacy group, seizing on the House page controversy, is urging Congress to approve $1 billion extra per year to mount an effective "war" on child porn and sexual predators.
The nonpartisan National Association to Protect Children said it will send pledge forms soon to all members of Congress and their challengers to back the $1 billion in addition to the current dedicated funding level of roughly less than $100 million a year.
Those who sign or don’t sign in the next three weeks or so will be identified in a publicized report card before the Nov. 7 election so voters will know those who "signed up to protect their children and the ones who decided to stick their heads back into the sand," said film/TV actor and child activist David Keith.
Grier Weeks, executive director of the association, said this is a good time to promote the pledge because of the congressional campaign focus before the Nov. 7 election and because the House is restructuring its page program for high school students after revelations that then-Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., allegedly contacted male former pages over several years and initiated messages about anatomy, drinking and meeting with them.
Weeks said his association’s talks with federal agencies and members of Congress showed there are not enough crime labs, federal, state and local law enforcement experts and prosecutors focused on sexual abuse of children, the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders and ways to shut down child porn Web sites.
The $1 billion a year would pay for 2,000 new federal agents, 1,000 new state and local agents, 20 new crime labs and 279 new prosecutors — all dedicated to battling those involved in sexual abuse of children, Weeks said.
The child protection group said it has members in all 50 states.